Concrete Driveway Construction
How do you choose the right material for a driveway?
The driveway is the first thing people see when pulling up to a property and first impressions count for a lot.
But as well as an aesthetic curb appeal, you need to consider the practicalities of a driveway. It’s one of the most used parts of a house, but often the one given least thought during the construction process.
First you need to consider what works in your neighbourhood. You want you house to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons. If everyone is sporting a concrete driveway and you suddenly buck the trend with a bound resin, will the looks you’re getting be those filled with envy or distain?
That shouldn't stop you from doing what you want, but there’s a reason why most designers reserve their wilder ideas for the inside and back of the house rather than the front.
What’s the most durable driveway?
How often do you use your driveway? You may think that the kitchen our lounge is the most used area of your house, but surely as the entrance and exit, the driveway has to be near the top of the list.
While light footfall and parked cars aren’t going to deteriorate your driveway on their own, when you factor in extreme temperatures and heavy rainfall over a few decades, they’re inevitably going to show signs of wear and tear. That means you want to select a material that’s built to last during your driveway construction.
Exposed aggregates or gravel driveway
- Pros - Probably the quickest way to achieve a finished drive, you could be using your new driveway within a day or two of starting work. There’s a huge array of colour stones and slate to choose from and they come in relatively cheap compared to the other options.
- Cons - There’s a considerable amount of upkeep required for gravel driveways, especially if you’re frequently driving in an out. Crushed gravel becomes dust, which can in turn be kicked up against your house through footfall, driving or heavy winds. You can reduce the amount of weeds you see with landscaping fabric, by they’re still likely to sneak through and need sorting before they get out of hand.
- Pros - Blocks can be chosen in a colour and style to match the exterior of your house, giving a very neat finish. You’ll find them to be very hard wearing, but if one does happen to become damaged, it’s easy to replace without having to rip the whole thing up and starting again.
- Cons - A lot relies on the quality of the sub-base installation to give an even platform for the paving to sit on. It’s a job for a professional , which comes at a cost. Placing each block one by one is a painstaking and time-consuming task, even on a small driveway.
- Pros - With a lifespan of around 20 years, your asphalt (or Tarmac) driveway will be a durable addition to your property. Sealants to prevent cracking are usually effective meaning the maintenance levels are relatively low.
- Cons - In the height of summer, asphalt will become malleable which means tyre marks are not uncommon which can ruin the aesthetics of your driveway. While there are alternatives to the classic dark grey, your customisation options are limited with asphalt.
- Pros - Probably the sleekest option on the market, a resin drive will pay for itself with the additional value it adds to your property. There are permeable and non-permeable options depending on availability of drainage, and there are a wide range of colour options available.
- Cons - The initial outlay can be high so you need to consider whether this is a cost you can accept right away. Resin driveways are not yet common, so you may want to consider if you want your property to be a trendsetter on your street.
- Pros - The heard-wearing and low maintenance nature of concrete makes it a natural option for any driveway. As well as looking good, they come in somewhere in the middle of the price range of other driveway options, with plenty of colour options to choose from.
- Cons - As a natural material, concrete is always going to be prone to discolouration, especially if it comes into contact with oil. There’s also the danger of cracking, however resurfacing is something that can be done with a day’s worth of DIY rather than needing to call back in tradespeople.
Comparing the cost of a concrete driveway
“How much does a driveway cost?” is a question many builders will face at some point. It’s similar to asking “how long is a piece of string?” — regardless of the material used — there are so many elements to factor in before coming up with a suitable quote.
- Shape and dimensions - this has a direct relationship to the amount of materials you’ll need — anything that isn’t straight sided will need careful planning
- Slope - how steep is the driveway it and do level areas need to be created for bin or bike storage?
- Drainage - is there a natural runoff for water or will something need constructing to avoid flooding the driveway?
- Design features - are there any patterns, special curbs or integrated lighting required?
- Adjacent landscaping - what kind of edging is required to blend into the neighbours property or your own front garden?
- Disability components - are there any requirements for incorporating wheelchair accessibility or handrails into the driveway?
With the rise in electric cars, you might need to factor in integrated power sockets into the driveway, rather than having unsightly cabling running from the house.
The question of cost also comes down to how long you want something to last. Buy cheap, buy twice, is an adage that is very true when it comes to driveways.
So while concrete is by no means the cheapest option available on the market, the cost of maintenance combined with the long lifespan and potential for it to add value to your house, makes it an incredibly cost effective option.
Imprinted, patterned and stamped concrete driveways
If you’ve decided that concrete is the right option, but there’s still a desire to have the appearance of painting, then an imprinted concrete driveway could be the ideal option.
Patterned concrete – sometimes referred to as stamped concrete – begins in exactly the same was a regular poured concrete however, while it sets it’s imprinted with a pattern.
With all the hard-wearing qualities of concrete, you’re able to achieve the maintenance-free appeal while stamping it with the pattern of your choice. There are a huge number of driveway designs to select from and because a pattern will be engineered to match the exact dimensions of your driveway, there’s an almost seamless feel from edge to edge.
As a relatively new technique, there are few specialists who have really mastered getting the perfect printed pattern. The wrong concrete mix, not putting the stamp on at the right time, not lining things up correctly – there are a lot of potential problems for someone who hasn’t had a lot of practice.
However get it right and add the right type of sealant and you could get the best of both worlds.